I believe that vaccinating children and young adults may be the single most important health-promoting intervention we can perform as parents, caregivers, and healthcare providers. Not everyone agrees with me, and that’s fine. The law in Idaho protects everyone’s freedom to vaccinate or not. However, that same law works to protect everyone from outbreaks of life-threatening diseases by strongly suggesting we all vaccinate our schoolkids.
In the second week of the legislative session, the House Health and Welfare Committee voted to renew a wide array of rules, including vaccine requirements for schoolchildren. I sit on that committee and I was one of the critical votes to renew those rules. Why? Those rules promote a healthy Idaho and do not infringe on anyone’s rights.
Vaccinations save lives, protect our children and are one of our greatest public health achievements. Vaccines protect against diseases that can kill and maim. One of the biggest risks to not vaccinating is spreading those diseases to people and children whose immune systems are compromised. Their bodies cannot protect themselves and would face the biggest risk in a school full of students potentially carrying disease. It’s up to the rest of us to do what we can to protect them, like keeping vaccine requirements in place.
While I refer to these rules as “vaccine requirements,” it’s important to note that vaccines are not mandatory in Idaho (per IDAPA code). If someone wants their unvaccinated child to attend a public school, all they need to do is provide a note to the administration. They do not need to cite religious reasons for their exemption, merely that they don’t want to vaccinate. In my home school district of Jerome, they readily provide a form outlining these exemption requirements. However, many daycares and preschools in Idaho are private businesses. As such, they should be able to determine whether they want their customers vaccinated. That’s their right.
Simply put, these requirements do not step on anyone’s rights. At my request last year, the Idaho Attorney General’s Office provided analysis of these rules and found that there was, “nothing unconstitutional.” Our U.S. and Idaho Constitutions are some of the greatest documents ever written, and I would never support something that treads on them. These requirements do no such thing.
Vaccines are safe and have succeeded in significantly reducing occurrences of a myriad of terrible illnesses. Because of vaccines, many of you have never seen a child with polio, tetanus, whooping cough, or bacterial meningitis, or known a friend or family member whose child died from one of these diseases. Of course, it is precisely because vaccines are so effective that we are discussing whether they should be given. Most people haven’t seen how devastating they can be. However, something we cannot discuss is whether Idaho’s vaccine rules are constitutional. They are. They ensure that freedom in Idaho still exists: the freedom to make your own health choices and the freedom to send your child to a safe and healthy school. That’s why I have and will continue to support them.